We’re counting down the days until the Panthers kick off the 2021 season.
Ed. note: This countdown piece was written and scheduled before the team started trimming their roster down to 53 players. -BS
We’re only 12 days away from the start of the Panthers’ 2021 season, so today’s countdown piece will be dedicated to the player on the roster currently wearing No. 12 — wide receiver Shi Smith.
The Panthers drafted the 22-year-old Smith (5-10, 190) in the sixth round (No. 204 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. Smith played college football at South Carolina, and you can read a brief summary of his college career below, courtesy of the team’s website.
Smith appeared in 43 games at South Carolina with 35 starts. Made 174 receptions for 2,204 yards and 13 touchdowns. Finished career ranked fourth in receptions and eighth in receiving yards. Invited to 2021 Senior Bowl. In 2020, ranked fifth in the SEC in receptions per game (6.3) and ninth in receiving yards (70.3).
Smith was on track to make the 53-man roster thanks to a strong training camp and preseason, but a shoulder injury in the final preseason game has put some doubt into his availability for the 2021 season. Panthers head coach Matt Rhule called the injury ‘significant’ in his post-game presser following the team’s 34-9 win over the Steelers, but later updated the situation by saying that Smith ‘would miss some time, but not too long, hopefully’.
With the updated injured reserve rules for 2021 (that carried over from 2020) the Panthers can afford to keep Smith on the roster and place him on injured reserve for a few weeks so his shoulder can heal, and then they can bring him onto the active roster when he’s ready to play. In the meantime, they have the flexibility to either carry five receivers and add extra depth somewhere else, or use the time to take an extended look at another receiver in that sixth spot on the depth chart while Smith recovers*.
What do you think, Panthers fans? Will Smith see any playing time this season? Why or why not? What should the Panthers do with the extra roster spot while he’s on the shelf? Share your thoughts with us!
*- There are several candidates at receiver they may want to evaluate more (Omar Bayless, C.J. Saunders and Trenton Cannon, specifically), so if I had to bet on it that’s what I’d put my money on.
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